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Saturday's Sleeper : Nevin Ashley

        Welcome to the debut of `Saturday's Sleeper' every Saturday for the next few weeks (or at least until we run out of `sleepers') we'll bring you a new player who you may or may not be completely familiar with, and give you reasons and details on why he's a player to watch in 2007.
    We start this campaign with one of my personal favorite prospects, he was the 6th round selection of the Rays in this past June's draft, catcher Nevin Ashley. A first team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection , he ranked inside the top 10 of eight categories last season. As if .382 BA, 10 dingers, and a .653 SLG% weren't enough, he also threw out 45% of attempted base stealers.
    In 46 games at Princeton, Ashley hit .336, with 4 homeruns, he had an OBP of .442, and a SLG % of .483 as he saw time at both catcher and designated hitter. Ashley heated up every month in the short seasoned league, hitting only .077 (1-17) in June, with that hit being a homer, and only one walk he struck out 7 times.
    In July, Ashley improved to the rate of a .298 month (17-57), hit 2 homers, and had a 8 walk, 13 strikeout month. Nevin put it on in August for a blazing month of .405 (32-79) a single homer, and a walk to strikeout rate of 12:20.
    All in all Ashley saw his OBP grow from  .143, to .408, and ended the season with a .442 clip. He clearly began to learn and adjust to fit the pitching styles he was seeing from other low A competition.
    A comparison that can be made is to the Oakland Athletics' catcher Jeremy Brown of Moneyball fame. Though Ashley has less power and obviously won't draw as many walks as the `OBP' machine, they have similar skill sets.
    So what should we see out of Ashley this year? A promotion more than likely to Hudson Valley, and if he really tears the cowhide up he may see time in Columbus later in the year, thought at this point the 22 year old has plenty of time to grow into his 6'2, 210 frame and should be able to generate slightly more power.
     Of course this a very loose projection, but he would probably be a hitter whose homerun count landed in the teens more than not. Of course given the Rays disappointingly poor success rate of developing catchers (Toby Hall pops to mind as the only `starter` we`ve produced albeit a bad one, and Shawn Riggans figures to be at least in the running for the backup catcher spot this spring) the Rays shouldn't rush Ashley through the system.
    It is nice however to acknowledge that the one stat that usually carries over from the minors is that of walks, and that's something Ashley excels at. He's not the flashiest player in the system, but he's got all the fundamentals to make it one day to the majors, though how soon is as a good of a guess as anyone's.